Saturday, 9 September 2017

Caribbean and UK Resilience not very resilient at all?

Trouble arrives in battalions to misquote Shakespeare. And certainly the Caribbean at the moment is suffering a sea of Resilience troubles. I've written previously on Texas and UK and Storm Harvey:

And now with Storm Irma the most prolonged storm ever with winds over 185mph and Storm Jose only slightly less worse as a Category 4, storm the Caribbean is under siege from Climate Change.

While the Richter scale 8 earthquake on Mexico's Pacific side is the worst in over a century and will no doubt impact on Mexico's support for Texas in the recovery from Storm Harvey.

The UK response is unfortunately categorised as weak already. The Royal Navy caught napping with ships having to deploy from UK - and just 40 Royal Marines - as the French and Dutch navy, and troops, were already on the ground in their Caribbean colonies.

The shambles of beach landing kit not being able to land on the beach and some of it then airlifted in by helicopter speaks volumes for preparedness.

Clearly a review is required of UK resilience support in the Caribbean once the storms have subsided and the bodies are buried - the slow response along with confusion on which landing areas to use and even communication completely lost from the islands suggest much is to be done.

Not to have ships and aid forward-positioned during the storm season is astonishing.

And UNOCHA one of the humanitarian organisations with UK's former DFID heads now at the helm needs to consider its response too: deploying bureaucrats so late in the day is of little use unless they have their sleeves rolled up. They were needed months before in the planning phase. And the Caribbean islands don't have a government or telephones or internet to advise?

Why would aid take longer than 6 hours to arrive in any Caribbean disaster?

The Caribbean Commonwealth failing to organise a network of aid depots is a failure in itself. No point in the Caribbean or Central America is more than c.1,000 miles radius from any other point - about the length of Britain.

Imagine a Resilience disaster in UK that took days before ships were even dispatched – perhaps we should hope the Dutch navy turn up.

Barney Barges of aid might be a solution in themselves given the new debate on the UK National Shipbuilding Strategy, and most defence spend geared to maintaining jobs and increased military spend, rather than any real military threat.

The Plymouth shipmakers helping developing the HRonn robot-barge carrying shipping containers to be easily unloaded by helicopter might be more relevant for Resilience:

Certainly a flotilla of such Barney Barges would not be much of a loss if they sank in a storm - the UK's aircraft carriers unlikely to ever be deployed as too expensive to use or lose.

FMCG manufacturers could use up near-expiry date products reducing waste. And flying bottled water around the world in emergencies must be absurd compared to pre-prepared water bowsers and water purification plants.

And a review of helicopters available is needed: damaged ports and harbours as with the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 require airlift capability. The UK providing just 12 helicopters for a dozen Caribbean islands now is again feeble.

The issue of whether UK helicopters can fly in rain, as with the scandal of UK helicopters in Afghanistan not being provided and being incapable of a dust-off because it's dusty in the desert, is best left to when the storm clouds have subsided.

Providing aid on standby is also relevant for the Pacific coast of Central America and Latin America given the frequent storms and earthquakes: Santiago in Chile in 2015 with a tsunami too. It would be absurd given the UK and USA and Canadian navies along with Chile and Mexico and Argentina if aid had to be prioritised to either the Caribbean or Pacific.

While the Chilean navy focusing on blood and organ donations is a necessary precaution too. 35,000 deaths from natural disasters each year is a drop in the ocean compared to those injured. The Royal Navy turning up at the last minute with an Elastoplast and its rum ration is of little use.

The taxpayer funding a navy that cannot, or is not, to be used is a rather expensive farce.

Global emergency telephone numbers and websites would be a simple and far-reaching reform. You may know to telephone 999 or 911 but would tourists or children? And a hurricane is no time to be googling a list of disaster numbers or websites.

Barbuda and Anguilla, and no doubt Puerto Rico and Cuba, and Florida and Georgia as the storms progress, look as if a nuclear bomb has been detonated over them. Perhaps an eerie reminder of the dangers of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

While the Yucatan area formed from a huge meteor strike - similar to the Meteor Crater in Flagstaff Arizona, in USA - and aptly near both the NASA launch site in Florida and European launch site in French Guyana - require different Resilience in space preparation.

After over 50 years of space activity for there to be no global plan on space exploration or even Mars2030 is absurd - as is the lack of weather satellites, space junk clearance or satellites around every planet and moon in the solar system.

Without such measures space exploration will be hindered as well as preparation for storms such as Irma or earthquakes and volcanoes as per the eruption in 2010 of Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull, disrupting more flights since WW2, and global Climate threat of Krakatoa before that with shorter Summers and harvests.

Resilience planning relevant in UK too - and here in East Kent one can imagine how feeble the preparations are given the severe storms of 1953 and 1978 across Kent and Benelux with hundreds dead, and increased use of the Thames Flood Barrier. Or indeed any part of the UK or coast given nowhere in Britain is more than 75 miles from the sea.

The carnage of the Xmas sales would be nothing to the emptying of supermarket shelves in a major disaster.

Questions are already rightly being raised of over 1,200 dead in floods in India, Nepal (with its prior major earthquake) and Bangladesh and preparedness in ASEAN, with more Thailand floods: 20 provinces declared emergency and of course Pacific islands through Indonesia (the Aceh Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 with over 100,000 dead) and Philippines and Solomons etc.

The Pacific Commonwealth with Malaysia and Singapore and Australia must surely be better prepared than the Caribbean?

In reviewing the UK aid response though questions must be raised over the Caribbean tax havens and cocaine routes detailed in the Panama papers. Clearly UK aid is not tied to response and support but equally clearly - storms or not - the UK's acceptance of and involvement in - Caribbean tax havens is long overdue for major reform.

The brass plaque money-launderers for arms dealers, or African dictators and drug barons won't be rushing aid to the Caribbean.

While the storms impact on the cocaine and marijuana harvests make a Doitung strategy of crop reform all the more viable. Many farmers would no doubt prefer to grow legitimate crops, or develop the tourism industry, as well as avoiding the pollution of drugs production chemicals.

The UK public already lending their support through Red Cross shouldn't be expected to sanction business as usual in the Caribbean tax havens.

I've long urged Ramsgate as a Red Cross Town focus - not one but two charity shops now -along with a DFID office, given the successful Whitehall Out of Whitehall strategy of freeing up expensive central London office space. And urging Discovery Park STEM labs focused on TB vaccines research and manufacture of malaria nets, and water purifying tablets for Resilience.

Haiti suffering as no doubt will the other Caribbean islands, with cholera outbreaks from broken sewers and sewage floods, as with 600,000 affected in Yemen, are a problem long after the initial storm damage.

In East Kent the council murk and reluctance to detail the secret directors over mega-projects such as Pleasurama (British Virgin Islands) and Dreamland (Cayman Islands) and Pavilion is symptomatic of East Kent failure and the spread of Caribbean tax havens.

And just this week,concerns raised at creditor meetings over Dreamland, one of the largest UK amusement parks in UK and certainly the largest in Kent even with the proposed Paramount theme park, and Arrowgrass a Margate yet Cayman Islands company.

Dreamland with millions of public funds and Lottery funds already deployed after rather haphazard development over c.15 years raises questions on council involvement and secret directors and shareholders as with the BHS - Lord Grabiner/Green scandal:

With moves to make the Pacific Plastic Patch officially a country, the UK Caribbean tax havens are merely a drain on UK tax.

And Storm Irma and Harvey and the Mexican earthquake (storms have alphabetical names but not earthquakes?) prove Resilience and Climate Change problems arrive in battalions - if only the military response did too.

Time for Change

* concerning the Nemo Link seems to be already dredging part of the Pegwell Bay RAMSAR UNESCO site - exactly the sort of thing UNESCO designation is meant to prevent
* silence from TDC Leader Wells on the Manston Infratil crimes and aquifer
* silence extended to over 3 months from KCC Leader Carter in cancelling the KCC public meetings - their only act so far by councillors is increasing their own salaries. The County Barn is Empty and with a Zombie Parliament and caretaker government on the Brexit monoissue
* Time for UK sanctions on NZ lamb and wine (certainly a boost for Kent lamb and wine and other New World wines) given the delays in extradition form Wellington airport of the Infratil directors involved in the Manston-Infratil corporate manslaughter with KCC and TDC removing the airport monitors and faking the pollution data and fines

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